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Cape Vultures released in vulture recovery plan

The NZG and VulPro released Cape vultures into the Magaliesberg on 15 February, as part of the launch of the vulture population recovery plan. PHOTO: Supplied

The NZG and VulPro released Cape vultures into the Magaliesberg on 15 February, as part of the launch of the vulture population recovery plan. PHOTO: Supplied

The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG) helped make conservation history on 15 February when it was part of the release of Cape vultures into the Magaliesberg, as part of a vulture population recovery plan. Three parent-reared Cape Vultures, two aged two years and one aged three years, of the National Zoo are now part of the programme, being monitored by VulPro, a vulture conservation organisation, which has been preparing for this programme initiation for years.

Angeliné Schwan, spokesperson for the NZG, says 10 birds were released on the release day and were all fitted with solar-powered monitoring devices and identification tags, which were verified before they were released to an open enclosure adjacent to the aviary. She says prior to the release, the NZG’s vultures were introduced to the existing population of vultures at VulPro that were housed in a large aviary and the birds were acclimated with other birds to be released.

“It is anticipated the released birds will remain on VulPro’s property for a short period before venturing further afield and the data obtained from the monitoring devices will be used by VulPro and the NZG in an attempt to grow the population recovery plan. This will ensure the research team is able to track the movements of the birds throughout their range,” says Schwan.

According to her, VulPro will continue to feed the vultures in the open enclosure until the birds are confident to join the wild vultures feeding at a nearby vulture restaurant, a communal feeding site for wild birds of prey maintained by VulPro. Schwan says Cape Vultures are endemic to southern Africa and classified as regionally endangered and globally vulnerable with fewer than 4000 breeding pairs remaining.

“The Magaliesberg is home to three breeding colonies of Cape Vultures, however The Roberts’ Farm Cape Vulture colony, historically the largest colony, went extinct in 2012 due to power line collisions and electrocutions and irresponsible use of poisons by farmers and landowners. These threats are being addressed on a daily basis with the help of concerned landowners and VulPro now hopes to attract vultures back to this site,” she says.